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Are you a writer?

There are books, blogs, and courses on how to write. Social media accounts are dedicated to encouraging “non-writers” to commit to daily writing practices, and coaches build followings with promises of completed writing projects. And yes, while there is skill behind knowing how to write well (grammar rules, structure, rhythm) what if all this mystery and magic built up around writing is stopping us from writing in the first place?

What if, instead of waiting for inspiration or the perfect moment, you simply began?

Take away lofty goals and quests for eloquence; simply aim to write a line or two of clunky words. Then, type for ten minutes; the day after that commit to writing for fifteen. Next Saturday, you may find yourself writing for one hour. You may have something solid to chip away at and refine one month later.

Sure, set goals that will keep you on track, but don’t let your questions — What should I write about? Where should I write? When should I write? Which writing program should I use? How do I begin? What if it isn’t any good? — get in your way.

There is a writer in you. And there’s a story that no one else can tell in a way that no one else can tell it. Instead of looking outwards, look inwards. That’s where you will find your process.

Take 5

Tell 5 people you appreciate them.

Think of 5 things you love about yourself.

Set aside 5 minutes to write.

List 5 goals you want to achieve by week’s end.

Check-in with 5 people who appear strong.

Remember 5 obstacles you’ve overcome.

Thank 5 service workers.

Choose 5 songs you can play the next time you feel anxious.

Invite 5 people to a Zoom call.

Bookmark 5 websites that inspire you.

Tape 5 quotes next to your workstation.

Make 5 calls to people who might be struggling.

Take 5 deep breaths.

Bookmark your dreams

Many years ago, a coach gave me an assignment that changed my life.

Write down 50 – 100 things you’d like to do.

My original list contained almost 90 items, goals ranging from learning to tie a necktie to finishing a marathon. I revisit this list from time to time. It has served as a guidepost for sorting out impulse and helping me decide whether my choices are circumstantial or made with intention.

It’s impossible to forge ahead if you don’t have a direction. (I didn’t always know this.) When you focus your efforts, you’re much more likely to get it done.

Step 1: Make time

Mark your calendar and commit. Set aside one undisturbed hour in a space you feel comfortable.

Step 2: Write

While writing your list, let yourself play and dream. Don’t pause to question. Don’t edit. Just write.

Step 3: Bookmark

Place your list someplace safe so you can return to it and reassess whether these goals are where you’d like to concentrate your energy. It’s never “too late” to dream.

Modified from Dream Chasers, posted December 2012.

Fear, regret, and bonus questions (grab a pen)

I was writing every day. Every morning. And I stopped.

Why?

I was afraid.

(Yep! Me. Afraid! Little known fact: I constantly battle a thin hum of anxiety. But that’s a different story, a different post. Back to writing.)

I was afraid I wasn’t good enough.

I was afraid my writing was missing the mark. I’d let a few rejections from publishers mute my enthusiasm. And I got tired. Other things because More Important. (Though what can be more important than telling your truth, I am not sure. Certainly not work. Or YouTube yoga videos.)

So in 2020: I’m coming back. I’m owning myself and my time like never before. I’m ready to take up more space. I’m ready to shove fear in its rightful place, even if it needs some coddling to move. This year, I’m not going to let anxiety drive the car. Not anymore.

Your turn: (Here’s where your pen comes in.) Tell me…

What are you returning to this year?

What are you letting go of?

What will you keep?

What mistakes have you made? I’m asking not to make you feel bad, in fact, I want you to celebrate them. Mistakes mean you’re going for it! Have regrets? Even better! Celebrate! You’re LIVING LIFE.

What will you move away from in 2020? What don’t you want?

Now. Get ready.

Celebrate what you’re going to create.

The projects you’re going to put into the world. The dreams that will manifest. The big move. The relationships you will nourish and cherish. A new business.

This time next year what will you be proud of?

And celebrate. Celebrate all of these things as if they have already happened. Imagine your enthusiasm and accomplishment. And rejoice.

Rejoice at this life you are living. Rejoice in who you are.

Rejoice in what you love and what excites you and what keeps you curious.

Rejoice in all of it, the ups and the downs.

Happy New Year.

Be you (it’s the best gift you can give the world)

“Say who you are, really say it in your life and in your work. Tell someone out there who is lost, someone not yet born, someone who won’t be born for 500 years. Your writing will be a record of your time. It can’t help but be that. But more importantly, if you’re honest about who you are, you’ll help that person be less lonely in their world because that person will recognize him or herself in you and that will give them hope.”

-Charlie Kaufman

Watch this inspirational speech from one of cinema’s most celebrated writers.